Cole Anthony beat the buzzer in Minneapolis drilling home a deep 3 point jumper after sprinting up the court to take a 97-96 win.
THE FIRST QUARTER
Orlando welcomed back Evan Fournier from injury. His return showed what had been lost from our offence. Orlando’s first play saw Evan feed Nikola Vucevic for a turnaround hook shot in the paint. This was followed by Fournier being fouled on a 3 point attempt, making all the free throws. Rust did show in Evan’s game having been out for numerous games, making an early turnover.
Nikola Vucevic was shooting the ball nicely for 12 first quarter points. By the quarter close Orlando had a 25-21.
INTO THE SECOND
The Minnesota Timberwolves took control of the game as Orlando went cold.
The second unit with Aaron Gordon at the point could not get going. Turnovers came on offensive plays and when shots were put up Orlando were inaccurate. In the opening 5 minutes of the quarter the Magic went 1 of 10 on shooting. In a 24 to 1 point run Minnesota built a 17 point lead. Magic heads were dropping.
With 3:45 remaining in the quarter James Ennis hit a three pointer, for Orlando’s second field goal of the quarter! The lead had now reached 20. Aaron Gordon made his first field goal with 60 seconds remaining, a tough jump shot for a two.
As the buzzer sounded a dejected looking Magic team had scored only 10 points in the quarter. As a result of making only 12 of 44 field goal attempts Orlando were trailing 35-61.
Long before Cole Anthony beat the buzzer he had made an important play. In the opening seconds of the quarter Anthony blocked a Josh Okogie shot. It was a spark of life that Orlando had not showed in the second quarter.
As Orlando began to fight Vooch was struggling with his shot. Fournier was making enough shots to keep Orlando alive. One passage of play showed the spirit Orlando were finding. An Evan made 3 (for his 17th points of the night) was immediately followed by a Aaron Gordon block. AG was then fouled, the resulting free throws with 7:30 to go in the quarter saw the deficit down to 13.
The T’wolves responded with a sequence of their own that extended the lead back to 18. D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley had it going and were hurting Orlando.
Vooch with the form he is in could not continue as he had. He found his shot again late in the third and how it helped the team, seeing the lead cut to 11. This was met by yet another counter punch by Minnesota for 5 points of their own.
In a prelude for what was to come Nikola Vucevic hit a 3 point buzzer beater as the quarter closed to take the deficit to single figures, at 68-77.
INTO THE FOURTH
Buckets started to drop for Orlando as with a shade under 8 minutes remaining the deficit had been trimmed to 5 points. A disastrous minute of play though saw the lead balloon out to 13 as a result of Orlando committing turnovers and fouls.
Frustration appeared to have returned to the team, demonstrated by Vooch’s reaction to his missing several good chances.
INTO THE FINAL TWO MINUTES 30 SECONDS
This period had it all and began with yet another successful challenge by Coach Clifford on a ridiculous foul charged to Nikola Vucevic. The play resulting from the revoked decision saw Evan Fournier bury a huge 3, pinning the T’wolves lead back to 5 again.
Orlando responded to this shot by having a good defensive set, getting an essential stop. It led to Aaron Gordon hitting a 3 and the lead was down to 2.
Terrence Ross was called for a foul on a made lay-up, seeing him foul out. Players and officials reacted with disbelief at the dubious call but with no challenge remaining Ross had to sit. The free throw was made and the lead was now 5 with 1:24 remaining.
In this period Orlando had been playing with Aaron Gordon at the point guard spot. Ross fouling out saw Cole Anthony return.
A missed driving lay-up by Fournier saw Vooch rebounding to a now repositioned Evan, who missed his open 3. James Ennis fought under the basket and made a massively important putback layup (91-94). Minnesota responded immediately with a dunk as the clock read 0:50 remaining and the scoreboard an ominous 91-96.
With 34 seconds remaining Cole Anthony hit a 3 point shot from the wing, after a James Ennis pass from under the basket.
30 SECONDS REMAINING
This now 2 point game saw Minnesota now miss two opportunities to put the game to bed. First a Russell jump shot was blocked by AG, the rebound to Beasley saw him miss also. As Aaron Gordon took the rebound he was clubbed to the floor but no foul was called. Orlando were lucky to not be hit with a technical for both Terrence Ross’ reaction on the bench and Coach Clifford on the sideline. Vooch came over to move the Coach back from his protests.
Orlando now had 16 seconds. Inbounding the ball the play found Evan Fournier turn down an open three, passing to Aaron Gordon in a better position instead. AG launched his three ball, missed and saw Jarred Vanderbilt take the rebound for Minnesota. Immediately Cole Anthony fouled him for two free throws.
Vanderbilt does not have a good free throw record. With two shots to come for him, a two point Minnesota lead, 4.6 seconds remaining and no timeouts left Orlando were facing an almost impossible task.
Vanderbilt missed both. As the second free throw hit the rim Aaron Gordon was at his athletic and defensive best, swiping the ball to Cole Anthony. Cole ran up the court pursued by one T’wolves player and another approaching from the backcourt. Cole pulled up to launch a jumping three pointer from wide on the right wing. The result….nothing but the bottom of the net as the buzzer sounded!
Ecstatic celebrations followed from anyone wearing a Magic logo and Cole was mobbed.
THE GOOD AS ANTHONY BEAT THE BUZZER
Spirit, fight and belief. The improbable win came down to that with a team who were on a 6 game losing streak. Orlando now have a grit about them born from seasons of injury adversity and scrapping to reach the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
As such when the wheel came off after the franchise record breaking start they had something to draw on. The season set up has meant that adapting to this injury crisis has had to be done on the court.
The team is far from perfect at this time but as players return things should improve. Evan Fournier’s return showed this. The much maligned by fans shooting guard kept Orlando in the game with several important scores. His 24 points were needed. His ridiculed defence saw the improved effort of this season, as he made 2 steals.
Aaron Gordon in the second quarter particularly struggled as he continues to learn how to be a point guard. He battled to contributed 13 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal and 4 blocks.
Nikola Vucevic led the team on scoring with 28 points.
But the night belonged to a man named Cole and that moment that Cole Anthony beat the buzzer.
THE BAD ON THE NIGHT AS ANTHONY BEAT THE BUZZER
We have to be honest here, this result was against the team with the NBA’s worst record. Orlando had seen a team struggling on both ends of the court obtain a 20 point lead.
Yet again Orlando had struggled from beyond the arc, making only 10 of 31 attempted on the night. By contrast Minnesota had hit 15 of 35. That is another game were Orlando have been heavily outscored from the three. It could so easily have been a defining stat of the game again.
It is also another game in the period since Markelle Fultz has been absent that Orlando failed to tally 100 points.
As Orlando break their losing slide and move to a season record of 7-8 the road trip continues.
Orlando move to Indianapolis to face the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.